Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 6, 2014 7:30am-8:01am EDT

7:30 am
moment. he was the first u.s. president to use the inaugural address for this purpose, the first to move beyond generalities. he was absent of political bromides, absent of platitudes. strong and direct. america faced, he said, global challenges without a parallel in history. he wanted no part of europe's bloody and wasteful wars. and that was jeffersonian language too. but he demanded of the smug power that was great britain one thing, the rights of neutrals. of course we all know what happened before his first term had ended, the u.s. declared war on britain, a war it was ill equipped to fund. also of critical interest to us as we attempt to get a clearer
7:31 am
picture of the real madison, and what drove him, was a reference in that first inaugural address to the constitution as the cement of the union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities. he was promising to adhere to the same principle he demanded of the hamiltonians in the 1790s when madison's party was in the minority and both houses of congress and excluded from executive decision-making. he promised to continue republican measures, economy in public expenditures, keeping the standing army within the requisite limits and demoting state militias as the firmest bulwark of republics. but that interpretation of the constitution constrained from a -- from moving america in the direction of a permanently
7:32 am
centralized military. that interpretation of an america constrained from building up a war chest, that government was supplanted by another. it had to be if continental expansionism that jefferson and madison both saw as ultimately desirable was to take place. so madison had to learn on the job. in delivering the second inaugural address in march 1813, in the midst of the war, which the government was then struggling to fund, he sang a different tune. now if you listen to his language, he was referring to the rapid development of our national faculties in support of unavoidable war. when the public voice called for war, he reminded, all new and
7:33 am
still know that the effort had to be paid for which required the patriotism, the good sense, and the manly spirit, can't get anywhere without manly spirit. the manly spirit of our fellow citizens in bearing each his share of the common burden. he said to render the war short and its success sure, animate it and systematic exertions alone are necessary. precisely one year earlier, treasury secretary galatin had informed the president we have hardly enough money to last until the end of the month. future military operations would be threatened. when republicans in congress rejected madison's proposal for direct taxes, galatin sought private investment approaching new york millionaire fur trader
7:34 am
john jacob aster and philadelphia banker steven girouard the sort of spi speculatorers madison called gamblers in the early 1790s, he approached them, galatin did, after aster told him that the administration needed to charter a new bank of the united states and to borrow from the bank to finance the war. and so madison as president reconstituted the bank he had earlier associated with hamilton's cronyism. he had come to accept the principle that government could not engage in a major war without politics voting to raise taxes on the people who voted them in or out of office. this is a conundrum the 21st century understands. peace negotiations got under way in europe with madison's full
7:35 am
support. he needed albert galatin as his linchpin on the negotiating team in gent. british ships had appeared at the mouth of the potomac as early as july 1813, and raids along the chesapeake caused a nervous congress to look less favorably on an internal revenue solution. the fiery decimation of the white house, the capital, you know, august 1814 only intensified the need to reorder republican priorities and accommodate president madison's turnabout in favoring tax increases and a national bank that secured a uniform currency and maintained people's confidence in government during peace time as well as war. he had quietly succeeded in rendering hamilton's purportedly unconstitutional bank safe. a bank compromised of private
7:36 am
merchants and stock jobing speculat speculators. this was no longer of concern to lovers of the republican form of government. the second bank as reconstituted under madison would not place the constitutional separation of powers in jeopardy. the people could rest easier. at least those for whom the constitution was a living thing. >> the burning of washington tells us something important about the state of the union in 1814. one massachusetts newspaper ran a satirical headline, the president lost. the story was about how madison had gone missing since the battle of bladensburg and contended and here i quote, he does not even know where he is himself entirely lost and bewildered. in other words, the president hadn't just lost washington, he had lost his mind.
7:37 am
so if you think politics is bad today, it isn't any better. now, we have to -- i think several of the presenters have returned to this question, does the burning of washington turn madison into a failed president? a simple sound bite would fly today. but it misses the larger historical context. the british torched the capital to humiliate the president and actually to humiliate more than one president in reducing washington, the city, they were symbolically reducing washington the general who reduced lord corn wallace at york town 30 years before. you should read british newspapers, they rallied because they fqxçyresented american politicians chest thumping and macho posturing. they thought of america as an undisciplined adolescent who needed a good drubbing. and what we have to remember is
7:38 am
that the war itself reflected the nation's conflicted interests. i already referred to the idea of the filibuster are oregon the idea of a war initiated by westerners, which was a frontier war against native americans in a desire to obtain land from canada and from the northeast and that's what inspired westerners, but there was another war this is the war that madison cared about, which was finding a way to redefine english power on the high seas. it was a tough thing to connect those things and present them as a unified script on what the war stood for. the burning of washington did not symbolize the death of the republic or close to it. because washington city itself did not symbolize the united states to all americans in the way we might think of the federal government today. it was in 1814 as madison acknowledged in 1788 when he
7:39 am
wrote jefferson about his disappointment with the federal constitution. he called the new government system a feudal system of republics. feudal system of republics. and what he imagined was going to happen in the united states is there would emerge multiple state alliances or sectional and regional divisions that would undermine the spirit of the union. and that is a consistent condition of the united states from the time of the constitution, of course, until the civil war. and i would say it still exists today, living in louisiana. and that much reflected the reality of the state of the union in 1814. there was a new england coalition, one that almost seceded from the union, a western coalition that many feared would separate from the union during aaron berr's failed
7:40 am
filibuster movement a few years earlier. the middle states, new york, pennsylvania, maryland with port cities invested in international trade, had maintained a loose affiliation with the virginia dominated republican party. bound together by a commercial notion of democracy. by 1814, their leaders, in the middle states, had grown tired of the virginia dynasty. meanwhile, the new england inspired northwest vied with southern accented coalition of indiana, kentucky and tennessee. and this south itself was less united than imagined. south carolinians had a much greater investment in large scale plantation slavery than virginia did. saddam hussein in fact wanted to reopen the slave trade abolished in 1808. americans in 1814 didn't see washington as the only embodiment of the republic. westerners had far more at stake in protecting mississippi. their trade artery, which explains why andrew jackson's
7:41 am
victory in new orleans took on special meaning for them. new englanders rallied around victories in the atlantic as when the uss constitution sank a british warship, 750 miles east of boston. and by the close of the war, and this is -- this was alluded to by ken bowling, americans were even divided about what to do after they went back to washington and had to deal with the ashes. and the remains of the city. in 1816, congress failed in its attempt to increase the wages of national representatives. first the legislation was passed, but then fully half of the 14th congress were either voted out of office or failed to get nominated for re-election. and the law was promptly rescinded. this statement was a reaction in
7:42 am
part against the war hawks who had pushed for a war. and as we know, it took 13 years to rebuild a capital, and as was mentioned in 1814, swampy washington was almost abandoned all together in favor of philadelphia. how then should we remember madison as a political actor. more than a constitutionalist, he altered the course of history in many ways and jefferson's cabinet, where -- this is the other thing we forget about madison is how he pretty much was not only equal to jefferson in political influence, but stage managed jefferson's political career from 1782 when he persuaded him not to retire from politics after the death of his wife. in 1796, he convinced jefferson to run for president against john adams. when jefferson was urging madison to do so. and jefferson took few actions
7:43 am
as president without first profiting from madison's advice. and this is what we keep stressing. that madison's theories about the constitution, theories about a government, evolved due to the other experiences that he had, in the legislature, in the cabinet, as president. and in fact what we -- when we look at madison's thinking, he was someone who liked to solve real world problems. and sometimes a very more gradual manner than people would like, but a practical manner. he was much more willing to change gears than someone like jefferson was. and this in a sense is a good thing, he was adaptable. the other thing that we tend to forget about is that madison's style was very different. we, today, think that great president has to show his leadership and pretend he's a big man. well, madison was not. but that was actually very
7:44 am
soothing to a lot of people in 1814. they saw him as exercising influence without outward ambition. as a legislator, he saw in following and taking great -- paying great attention to details, and the details of how people behaved. and collecting that knowledge, collecting that information is how he was able to persuade people. it wasn't through his rhetoric. and he had incredible experience. he was in the virginia assembly. he went to the confederation congress, the constitutional convention, the first congress of the united states, and then at the end of the united states he was a ra have state constitutional convention. few had this kind of experience. throughout his career, his was the art of quiet persuasion rather than the art of eloquence and cap the vacation. he analyzed the political conditions and adapted his
7:45 am
views. he was attentive to national considerations. he was well aware of balancing the different branches of the government and he never lost site of his state as all politicians of his generation took the same ground. he had a much more flexible conception of the constitution. especially when the nation faced difficult conditions that demanded solutions. he understood are that the federal system was fragmented. and preserving the union required negotiation. the war of 1812 was as we said an example of the competing interests in different parts of the union. and in many ways it didn't succeed. westerners made off better than the other regions, they didn't get additional land from canada, but as john stag mentioned they did get a lot of land from native americans. the english did not end impressment of sailors because of any pressure the united
7:46 am
states had put on them, they did it when they chose to do so. the war are had been waged by a union of regional republics with a loose allegiance to a different government, distant government in washington. you know francis scott key's poem was originally titled "the defense of ft. mchenry," a much more localized illusion. maybe our flag was still there, but the land of the free didn't get its national anthem into the less than heralded presidency of herbert hoover. >> in balancing central authority against states rights, madison was an able leader in an unpredictable world. congress in 1814, not so much to admire, on the way of leadership.
7:47 am
the ever quotable historian henry adams, grandson of john quincy adams, great grandson of quin quincy adams wrote of the year, every ernest patriot in the union and many who are were neither ernest nor patriotic were actively reproaching the house of representatives for its final failure at an parent crisis of the national existence to call out or organize any considerable part of the national energies. the people, however jealous of power, would have liked in imagination, though they would not bear it in practice to be represented by something nobler, wiser and purer than their own average honor, wisdom and purity. and as they required of their religion and infinitely wise and powerful deity, they revolted in their politics from whatever struck them as sordid or selfish. the house reflected their own weaknesses, rebelled against a petty appropriation of money. there is a lot going on in the proceeding passage, adams was
7:48 am
reflecting on a central contradiction in the principle of american democracy, that still applies today. people of average intelligence and mediocre knowledge require people of stronger minds and greater decision-making prowess than their own. in 1814, the people's house, the house of representatives was just not wise enough to rule. they were too much of the people. just as madison had feared in 1787 when he wanted either an elite educated senate or an extra strong executive. fortunately, for the massive political mediocrity that was the house in 1814, the chamber of commerce responsible for the budget, for the country's fiscal health, fortunately for this uninspired crowd, they had a president who did his job, who knew that the job was to act in the interest of the many as many of his fellow citizens as
7:49 am
possible. to quote adams a little further, president madison far from being called to account for errors real or imaginary seemed to enjoy a popularity never before granted to any president at the expiration of his term. more than jefferson, more than washington? adams. this apparent contemptment was certainly not due to want of grievances, the internal taxes pushed hard upon the people. but no portion of the country seemed pleased that a fourth virginian should be made president. and here is the real reason why madison is someone other than that flat nerdy caricature of popular history. that hopy changy thing we associate with president monroe and the era of good feelings, that cascaded from his nearly
7:50 am
unanimous election in 1816, it was generated by his predecessor, little gemmy madison. a political revolutionary, life long student of government, forth coming, open minded, honorable, who lived to enlarge the boundaries of human knowledge, no less than any of his more storied contemporarcon. hail frodonia. thank you. [ applause ] >> the obligatory q&a begins. we'll just take a little bit of time for this because i know everybody wants to get to the refreshments.
7:51 am
[ inaudible ] -- >> -- between madison about nullification. there are those that say madison pulled his punches and what was his ultimate service to the union, but in theory given that who -- who would be better thought of as an expression of original intent, why were madison's opinions not -- was he honestly representing this position in his correspondence with calhoun. and my second question is, why did his responses bear so little influence on this controversy. >> i'll start and i know nancy, she's the constitutional thinker of the family. just before jefferson died, a couple of months before, he wrote a letter to madison, take care of me when dead, take care of my reputation after i'm gone. he knew the end was coming. and in a very real sense, in the 1820s, 1830s, madison continued
7:52 am
to promote the best jefferson that he wanted history to remember. not the nullifier, but the unifier. and that in part conditions what he was saying during the nullification crisis when he -- while acknowledging that he and jefferson were responsible for the kentucky/virginia revolution in 1799, which had never been publicly stated before, still he -- he gave a nuanced response. >> the thing you have to remember, this is what we chart, is that madison's attitudes towards constitutional power, how the constitution should be interpreted, changed over the course of his lifetime. and i have a whole critique of original intent. it doesn't -- you cannot identify it. and scholars have moved, they first argued, well, it was just what the founders said, the constitutional convention. then they said, no, the ratifying convention.
7:53 am
their opinion is original intent. now they moved and said it is the man on the street. the man on the street in 1788, no, really, how do you know this person? it doesn't exist. it is a theory that can't actually be substantiated historically because who are we going to actually embrace everyone who is at the constitutional convention or do we only pay attention to the people we want to listen to. this is the problem. the people who endorse original intent are not historians. >> all right. yes, go ahead. >> this builds on that kind of questioning, you're talking about madison understanding his place in history and his good friend jefferson and his place in history. and one of the questions i always wondered is that madison is one of the framers of the constitution, so he's the one that helps start the framework of government that we have. and as you said, in later in his
7:54 am
life, at montpelier, he's organizing his papers to try to make sure that everything is down in the best correct possible interpretation of what it has evolved to by the late, mid-1830s. so the british are coming to washington in a war that started and thankfully ended during his administration. and much of the same way started by him. and he understands this. he has to understand this. he may not talk about it. but then as in bladesburg, when the army and militia leave and they're going to come through, does he ever talk about the possibility that at that moment in time, it's all going to go away? and it centers on him and at
7:55 am
that moment. he may be the only one that's there that's thinking in that context. >> toward the end of his second term, he and alexander james dallas collaborate on a document that's kind of a white paper, really a white wash of the war of 1812. blaming the british in every respect, and using invective and describing the destruction of washington. as time went on, you know, madison stuck to that narrative, stuck to his guns. and egged on by jefferson as well, because jefferson was really most proactive of the two of them in looking for a republican who they could trust to open their private papers and allow them, public and private papers, and allow them to write
7:56 am
the authoritative history of parties. they were combatting for many years the multivol ume biograph of washington by john marshall, which got well beyond george washington's life and into partisan politics. and they were especially jefferson desperately afraid that american history would be told from the opposition point of view. so you know, this kind of explains why they weren't prepared to let history judge them without their doing everything possible to line up the authoritative writers of the history of the times. >> i want to add one point. this is why history can be really complicated. what you have to know, who is writing what letter, what the agenda is. if you kind of look at a document and just quote it and
7:57 am
you don't know the back story, you've missed what's going on. and that's why you have to go to the archive, you have to do research. you have to actually know all of the players involved, not just a handful of players, to really figure out because even when they wrote in their personal correspondence, they were quite conscious about shaping what they said. i love there's a series of l letters that jefferson writes when burr is on trial where he changes what he thinks and how he expresses what's going on depending on who the recipient of the letter is. in one letter, he's like, oh, good thing. he should be hanged. to another person, he's like, oh, this is so sad that we might lose this important political figure. so this is the problem with history. you have to actually know the archive. you have to know who these people are to really understand that history in a sense is not just there in the archive for the taking.
7:58 am
it's already been -- it's been constructed and defined before you get there. >> it's not by accident that there's no letter, no written evidence of jefferson's reaction to the death of alexander hamilton in 1804. it's not an accident. you know, he was probably relieved on some level. he may have had hamilton's bust at mont acello, but i don't think he mourned hamilton's death. burr was already out of the picture as a political threat. jefferson was content that madison would be his anointed successor. and there's a certain cold-bloodedness in our early presidents that, you know, we tend not to talk about because it doesn't -- it doesn't make them sound, you know, as genial or as the geniuses, the cerebral individuals that we like to remember the founding generation
7:59 am
as. but they were first and foremost hard-nosed politicians. they would understand the vindictive kind of statements that, you know, that form our partisan politics today. and perhaps, you know, that's kind of the last word on this, that madison and jefferson were virginians before they were nationalists or more than they were nationalists. we don't like to know that. we don't like to see that underside. we don't like to think about madison for some reason as a guy who told dirty jokes. but this was a part of the charm that a great early american literatureur who we don't talk about anymore, james k.paulding, he got to know madison, and he loved the story telling. he loved the raunchy humor. and he thought that, you know,
8:00 am
too bad american history will not know the real james madison. thank you. >> each week, american history tv's "reel america" brings you archival films. an attempt to control the colorado river's flooding and provide water to california the , u.s. government began this construction on hoover dam in 1931. one of the largest man-made structures when it opened in the 1936, project employed over 21,000 workers. it was completed two years ahead of schedule. in 1955 department of the interior film about the planning and the building of hoover dam. the story explains the engineering feat necessary for construction and promotes economic and recreational benefits provided by the structure. ♪

8 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on